Tess Nichol is an NZME. News Service reporter.

Teen had to 'let go' of 13-year-old boy he tried to rescue at Hunua Falls

A teenager had to "let go" of a 13-year-old boy he tried to rescue when the boy got into trouble while swimming at Auckland's Hunua Falls this afternoon.

The Police Dive Squad arrived at the Hunua Falls this evening. They have been briefed and are currently searching the water for the missing teenager.

Police expect to be in the water for around two hours this evening. Should the search not locate the youth, the Dive Squad will recommence the search tomorrow morning.

The Pukekohe boy was swimming at the South Auckland falls when he got into difficulty about 3pm.

Family members and members of the public attempted to find the boy under the water, "but he hasn't been seen since", Senior Sergeant John Yearbury of Counties Manukau Police said.

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Local police, fire and ambulance attended the scene and the Eagle Helicopter was called in to fly over the area where the boy went under but it could not see anything from the air.

"Clearly now we are looking to recover a body," Mr Yearbury said.

Mr Yearbury told the Herald an older boy tried to save the 13-year-old but was unable to.

"Another teenager tried to rescue him but he couldn't. He said he had to let go."

The boy might have been an older brother but Mr Yearbury could not confirm that.

The family of the boy was distraught, Mr Yearbury said.

Mr Yearbury did not know whether or not the boy could swim or what he had been wearing at the time. Police were also unsure how exactly the boy had got into trouble.

St John was stood down from the scene by police shortly before 4.45pm. No one was transported from the scene.

The Police National Dive Squad were earlier contacted to assist with the search.

The falls have been roped off, and are currently closed to members of the public. The carpark remains open.

Safety woes at Hunua Falls

Just nine days ago, 17-year-old Peter Lemalu drowned at the falls.

American tourists Ryan Aiono, 24, and Spencer Lynn, 22, dived into the water after seeing Mr Lemalu and another male in trouble. But despite their efforts, Mr Lemalu went underwater and did not surface.

Mr Lemalu's friend was airlifted to Middlemore Hospital in a moderate condition and was later discharged.

Mr Lemalu's body was found the following day by the Police National Dive Squad.

Safety was reviewed at the falls in 2013 following the death of a 20-year-old Indian national Daksh Modasia.

Mr Modasia lost his footing and fell into deep water while trying to cross the front of the falls. He was unconscious when pulled from the water, could not be revived and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr Modasia was at least the 16th person killed at the falls, southeast of Auckland, although most of those died jumping from the top.

The park was managed by the Auckland Council which had worked hard on safety at the site, Hunua Ranges Regional Park senior ranger Wayne Carlson said at the time.

Over the years, various tracks to the top of the falls have been improved or closed, extra signs installed and fencing improved. Signs at the bottom of the falls have also been enlarged in collaboration with Water Safety NZ.

The council website advises that the waterfall pool is considered unsafe.

In 2013, Mr Carlson said he had spoken to Water Safety NZ about a further review.

However, it would be difficult to fence the pool and that would affect the site's scenic appeal.

Drownings this year

Thirty one people have drowned in New Zealand waters this year.

Water safety expert Kevin Moran of Auckland University has called for more education about the dangers of the water.

"It starts with education, but it's more than just teaching kids to swim ... We have to tell them, 'You're not as good as you think you are or you're not aware of the risks' because the system ... isn't working," Dr Moran said.

- NZ Herald

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